Posted on Leave a comment

Reflecting on mistakes

Mistakes have an indeterminable value, despite whether you make them yourself or not.

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them yourself

Eleanor Roosevelt

Reflection is a beautiful and powerful thing.

There is a gut-wrenching feeling that one can experience that is unique to a mistake of your own making. But, is that the only mistake you can learn from?

Reflection is an amazingly powerful tool to inform and educate a person. I have always believed in the power of reflection as a significant tool in self-awareness and self-development.

Being curious about another person’s life and work can help people gain varying perspectives about things that may speak to them about their own journeys and experiences. By talking to others, whether it’s in a professional capacity or not, of varying backgrounds and experiences, you can achieve a greater insight into different worlds.

Consider this alongside the legal landscape. As lawyers, do we not reflect on other’s mistakes or challenges (i.e. precedents) to inform or perfect our own problem solving approach? Think about legal questions, but also think about day-to-day experiences; e.g. working with a difficult personality in the firm, or approaching a person for a job.

If there’s ever a perfect time to make a mistake, it’s at the beginning of your career. It’s the time where mistakes are somewhat expected and, lets face it, you always learn (whether you like to or not) when a mistake is made because, following that gut-wrenching feeling I spoke of above, you never, ever want to experience that feeling again.

Despite your level of experience, mistakes are inevitable. The real value is in how you respond and rectify the mistake.  This is a hard concept for lawyers to really believe because of our egos. We don’t want to be wrong. We can’t be wrong. The thing is, we can and we will be wrong sometimes. You’d think that given that we often argue about legal principles that are very grey that we would accept that sometimes we would lose, but weirdly enough, it seems that a ‘loss’ falls like a lead balloon in our very souls! Ok, yes, dramatic, but sometimes that kind of description can fit.

The thing to remember, in this context, is that we will be wrong. We are human. We must remain focused on acknowledging the wrong, accepting that it happened, and putting a plan in place to rectify it as best as can be achieved. Most importantly, we should find a way to learn something from it.  I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that although the reason may not always be immediately clear, this is where reflection can be your saving grace.  Whether it’s a legal question we get wrong, or how to communicate with a difficult person in the office, it’s an experience, a story, and something to learn from.

The beauty of learning from other’s mistakes as well as our own is that we have the chance to increase our learning opportunities beyond measure. If we open up this opportunity to learn, we expose ourselves to an incredibly varied and colourful landscape of education.  If we engross ourselves in the worlds of others, talk with them, share stories and experiences with them, we have the beautiful ability to reflect with them (or on our own, whichever you prefer) about those stories and experiences. We can even embellish some of the stories, build upon them, as we reflect on those stories to help us learn what we can take away from those stories and experiences. Where did mistake happen? What could have avoided the mistake? How would I have reacted? What would I have done? How can I help avoid that happening to me?

This is exactly what we do in practice. We learn from past experiences when we deal with legal matters. So, what’s to say we can’t apply the same to all other types of experiences?

So, here’s a mirror; what can you see?

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash with grateful thanks.

Posted on Leave a comment

Value of time spent

Is there someone in your workplace or law land world that you don’t really get or struggle to work with?

Do they make your work difficult or are they always at odds with you?

I think it’s safe to say that it happens to all of us. What you do to work with these people depends on you, though.

Remember when we learned the basics of negotiation? Positions vs Interests?

No? Hmm maybe you review your notes or you can cheat and google it (I won’t tell anyone!)

One of the things we get taught is to take the time to understand the position of the parties and their interests to understand how you may find a resolution that both parties can live with. What they say they want, may not really reconcile with why they want it or what there underlying values or motivations (ie their interests) are in taking that position.

I’ve always drawn a likeness to this approach when dealing with people I’ve found difficult or challenging in some way.

What motivates them? What do they value? Where have they come from? What is their background?

These questions may be easier to uncover for some than others. If you have good intuition, you could work these things out organically.

The way to find these things out is to spend time with them. I appreciate this can be difficult. Maybe if you’re in the tea room or lecture theatre together, strike up a casual conversation. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or even particularly thought-provoking and it may take multiple attempts. You have to start somewhere. The purpose is to learn about them. It will take multiple interactions to start to unravel their position and their underlying interests.

The purpose of this process is learn about them so you can learn how to effectively communicate them to achieve the desired outcome; to work effectively with them.

Can you find a common interest or just a common ground? Do you both enjoy the coffee from that cafe whilst others prefer the one down the street?

People fundamentally like talking about themselves. They also like the sound of their name. These two things were pointed out to me when I read How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie and they’re super true. Admittedly, when I read this and then adapted it when speaking with people at a networking event, I could barely believe the result. It was like I learnt how to slice bread!

Try using their name back to them when you speak to them; “So, Brett, where do you get the best coffee around here anyway?” OK, perhaps a corny example, but you probably get the gist!

We all communicate differently. Some communicate verbally, others may do so more non-verbally (ie body language etc).

Importantly, and more broadly speaking, spending time with and observing people can help you learn more about different communication styles and consider how you may evolve your own communication styles to enable you to break down barriers between people. Maybe even between you and the person you currently struggle with.

While your original motivations to work through this may be associated with this particular person, the benefits to be gained from undertaking this process are enormous. The skills and comfort level you can associate with this practice will help you in everything you do, particularly so in the practice of law and dealing with clients, negotiating deals or just dealing with people in your workplace.

Fundamentally, in all the above, you have to mean it. People can see through disingenuous conversation. Your commitment to this also needs to be long term. This is an ongoing and meaningful commitment to a good working relationship.

Spend the time to get to know the people around you.

You may be surprised by what you learn.

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash with grateful thanks.

Posted on Leave a comment

Curiosity is a good thing

You know some of the most interesting and insightful things I learn come from the oddest of places. It also comes from being curious. Asking questions. Listening to others.

I read the book called “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. In fact, here’s a link to help you on that journey!

The book is a bit old school, which, I must admit, I kind of like. It was originally published in 1932. But what I love about the fact that’s it’s old is that is still so darn relevant now.

A number of things stood out to me while reading this book. One of the biggest of which was how much we love the sound of our own voices and how many times we say “I”. Admittedly, whilst I read through this book, I found it a little confronting but alot enlightening.

The reason I mention this book in the context of being curious is as a result of this idea of being mindful of how many times we say “I” and how many times we just keeping talking and perhaps not listening as much as we should.

Curiousity can foster great things. It can foster learning (of course), creativity, opportunities and relationships.

There’s really no reason to be afraid of being curious. If you’re trying to make an impression on someone where you’re trying to sell yourself or your services, asking questions can seem like your admitting that you don’t know something. This might be against the general tenor of what you’re trying to say which might be something like “I’m awesome, hire me/refer me work”. BUT what I think we need to focus on here is the fact that people love talking about themselves.

Being curious does not mean you are uneducated, unskilled or stupid. It means you are curious. It means you wish to learn more. It means you want to develop your understanding. It means you want to listen to the person you’re asking questions of and you’re wanting to learn more about them and what they do.

It also gives a much better understanding of what that person does, who they are and where they come from which gives you a much better standing to tailor your pitch, your sell, your approach to problem solving to that person in a way that will get their attention. You can learn more about where someone is going if you know where they’ve been. It informs and gives context and background to a person or their problem.

If someone assumes things about another, they’re going to risk getting it really wrong and damaging a relationship before it’s even had a chance to begin, let alone blossom!

Be genuinely curious by asking questions and genuinely interested in the answer that follows.

We can learn so much from others so start asking questions.

The cat will be fine.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash with grateful thanks.